6 affordable healthy meals for the New Year

January 3, 2024
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After the excess of the festive season, most of us are looking forward to eating more healthily in January. And, as winter really begins to bite, it’s likely we’ll be keeping a much closer eye on our household bills, too. As the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, there’s no better time to consider keeping our weekly shop to a minimum. Record inflation rates have pushed food and drink prices up 12.6% compared to July last year, according to National World. So, creating cheap healthy meals can really help to reduce your outgoings.

The good news is that money-saving dinners don’t have to be dull. But prep work for healthy eating is essential. Setting a budget will prevent spending from spiralling, while meal planning will help to reduce food waste. But you can allow some wiggle room to substitute bargain buys. For example, using seasonal vegetables may be less expensive and more readily available. Or swapping some fresh foods for frozen alternatives can be a cheaper option. Do you want recipe ideas that are big on taste, but easy on your purse? Caple’s Southern Regional Training Manager, Jo, offers her inspiration for cheap healthy meals below, alongside hints for cooking on a budget:

Bargain breakfast bite: Potato & tomato shakshuka

Traditionally from North Africa, Shakshuka is a healthy breakfast commonly eaten throughout the Middle East. This simple dish, based around eggs in a tomato sauce, is ideal for cheap healthy meals for all the family. But whether you decide to munch this in the morning or nibble it at night, I think fitness coach and TV presenter Joe Wick’s Sweet Potato Shakshuka is a sure-fire winner

Big on flavour but not on cost, there’s plenty of scope to flex ingredients. I like to replace fresh herbs, such as this recipe’s parsley and sage, with dried ones to reduce my shopping basket. As prices can fluctuate, you can grab tins of tomatoes while they are on offer and store them for later use.

Microwaves use less energy than ovens, making them both a time-efficient and cost-effective option. Our Classic CM120 Built-In Microwave & Grill would be perfect for cooking this recipe’s sweet potato chunks. All they need is four minutes in a bowl with a splash of water, and they’re done!

Top tip: Create a tomato-only version instead. I vary mine by replacing the sweet potato with pitta bread, which I serve with this dish.

Speedy suppers: Roasted cauliflower steaks

When you need fast, but flavoursome, cheap healthy meals, this is definitely one to put on the menu. This quick, easy vegan recipe from BBC Good Food will slot right into a hectic schedule, and save money in the kitchen. It makes a perfect light lunch or supper, and it couldn’t be simpler to prepare.

The Combination Steam Function on our CMS260BS Smart Combi Microwave & Steam Oven would be perfect for cooking these veggie ‘steaks’. This recipe uses the biggest, middle part of the cauliflower. Make sure to put the rest in the freezer to use in other dishes, avoiding any waste.

Top tip: For an extra kick, add a scattering of dried chilli flakes. They’re a cheap and cheerful store cupboard essential that adds a little va-va-voom to so many different dishes.

Wholesome lunch: Cheat’s pea soup

There’s probably nothing quite as warming or satisfying as a bowl of steaming hot soup. And you really don’t need to splash the cash to assemble this nourishing recipe from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. While peas and spinach help to boost our vitamin C levels, they also aid the absorption of iron from whole wheat pasta.

Double up the soup ingredients to batch cook, then freeze them into ready-made portions for a cost-effective lunchtime option. The smoked ham gives this dish more body, keeping you fuller for longer, which makes this one of my favourite cheap healthy meals.

Our FOSSO 4-in-1 hot water tap would make this speedy soup recipe even quicker to prepare. It supplies fresh cold water, regular hot water and filtered 98°C steaming water. The latter means it does anything a kettle can do – just faster! So, this tap can be used for anything from making a cup of tea to speeding up the time it takes to cook pasta and rice.

Top tip: I use crème fraiche on my soup in place of cream.

Divine dinners: Slow cooker meatballs

As cheap healthy meals go, meatballs are a fabulous staple dish to serve to friends and family. This slow cooker recipe is no exception. Don’t have one? No problem! Our versatile Sense Premium C2601BS Smart Pyrolytic Single Oven incorporates a useful slow cook function, so you don’t need to splash out on another kitchen appliance. Simply place your ingredients into a heatproof casserole, and select the dedicated programme. Porridge oats are a great gluten-free substitute for breadcrumbs in homemade meatballs. Turkey also contains less saturated fat than beef, so it’s healthier for your heart.

Top tip: These meatballs work equally well served with pasta, rice, or a green salad. If your household is extra-hungry, you could even add slices of ciabatta on the side to mop up the rich tomato sauce.

Main meal moments: Coconut fish curry & rice

Exotic flavours give this coconut fish curry a luxurious feel. However, ingredient swaps can ensure that it’s still an inexpensive option. For example, trading fresh white fish for frozen will help to keep costs lower. Meanwhile, store cupboard items like basmati rice are more economical if bought in larger bags (rather than two smaller sizes). If you’re looking for cheap healthy meals – what’s not to love?

Fish dishes are fast, filling and nutritious – in fact, the only downside is the lingering odour. Happily our DD810BK Induction Hob with Downdraft Extractor quickly eliminates any cooking smells, and removes moisture and grease from your kitchen.

Top tip:  Add a squeeze of lemon to enhance the taste.

Delectable desserts: Pear and blackberry rice pudding

This Sainsbury’s recipe is the ultimate comfort pudding with a fruity, healthier twist. In season, foraging for fruit in your local fields or country parks can work up an appetite while curtailing cost. Out of season, frozen fruit is an economical option and you can use it to create a budget-friendly dish within your new cheap healthy meals collection. Or look out for supermarket ‘wonky fruit’ as another cheap alternative.

Our Sense SO111GM Built In Combi Steam Oven offers an alternative to this recipe’s hob-based method. In step 2, simply place the ingredients into a stainless steel Gastrotub. Set the steam function at 100°C, and cook for 15 minutes. Add the remaining milk, and cook using the oven’s steam function for a further 15 minutes – no stirring required!

Top tip: To garnish or not to garnish – the choice is yours. Simply sprinkle with cinnamon or drizzle with honey. And, for a special occasion, add a splash of colour with a handful of fresh blackberries.

Want to explore more vegetarian dinner options? Then click for thoughts and ideas from Southern Regional Training Manager Jo.